An interview with religious freedom watchdog Johannes de Jong.
The Turkish government under President Tayyip Erdogan is supporting Azerbaijan in its attacks on mostly Christian Armenia. Given Erdogan’s repeated sponsorship of anti-Christian jihadists around the world, The Stream interviewed regional expert Johannes de Jong about the conflict.
John Zmirak: Here in the U.S. we’re very distracted by our upcoming election and Supreme Court vacancy. But there are major events taking place in the Near East, which endanger the religious freedom of Christians. Right now, Turkey is sending jihadists linked to al Qaeda from Syria to attack Armenia. Can you please fill us in on what’s happening and the background?
Johannes de Jong: Azerbaijan and Armenia have been fighting over Nagorony Karabach since the nineties. Armenia managed to defeat Azerbaijan. So there is now still a significant Armenian population in that area and it is under Armenian military protection. It functions however as a small and unrecognized separate republic next to Armenia under the name “Artsakh.” I understand that it is actually the oldest continuing place of Armenian inhabitation regardless of all else that happened to the Armenians.
Now Azerbaijan has obeyed its Turkish masters and attacked Nagorony Karabach. But this was no surprise. Already back in June we heard the first reports that Turkey was recruiting jihadists in Syria for a war against Armenia. We now have evidence dug up by Reuters showing that Turkey is again deploying their jihadists on one more foreign battlefield. After going after Kurds, Syriacs and Arabs in Afrin and Northern Syria (and especially all Christians among them), Erdogan moved his extremist army to Libya and now after that to fight against the Armenians.
The Same Genocide Again?
Is it unfair to say that Turkey attacking Armenia is a lot like Germany bombing Israel?
Personally I am always very careful not to draw comparisons with the Shoah. I think it is sufficient to say that in 1915 Turkey tried to eradicate all the Christian peoples from its lands. Erdogan has been continuing that genocide through ISIS and other jihadists since 2014. What is happening now is not different from the attack against Christian peoples and Yadizis in Iraq and Syria that we’ve seen since 2014. It may be of interest to note that there is also a significant Syriac-Assyrian and Yazidi presence in Armenia. So it is a collective experience by the same peoples of a repeat of the same genocide as 100 years ago.
How hard is Erdogan trying to gain control of Libya?
There’s a funny thing happening there. The man who led the Turkish-backed GNA resigned as ‘Prime Minister’ two weeks ago. Now Turkey is struggling to keep control of things in Libya.
France to the Rescue
France made a show of military force against Turkey last weeks. Was that in response to Turkish moves against Greece? Please tell us about those.
Yes, President Macron may not be the most popular figure among readers of The Stream. But he absolutely did the right thing there in sending warships to the Eastern Mediterranean. This was in order to protect Greece and Cyprus against Turkish threats and aggression. Turkey tried to seize areas of Greek and Cypriot waters. Turkey wants the gasfields there. But now he won’t get them. Erdogan made a huge miscalculation and underestimated the French determination to protect its allies and the EU against Turkey.
The whole situation there is closely connected to the plans of the Gulf States, Israel, Egypt, Greece and Cyprus. They want to create a pipeline to transport gas from the Gulf to Europe. Of course, Turkey is against it. This is also a very important background to the peace treaty between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain.